Gila National Forest
Gila National Forest. Photo by Joseph j7uy5/Flickr
Significant portions of Animas Creek in the heart of Gila National Forest are now protected from potential development, thanks to an agreement that we negotiated between a private landowner and the U.S. Forest Service. More than 520 acres on six inholdings, which provide important habitat for a hybrid species of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, were transferred to the agency.
In 2009, the 40-acre property that contains the historic rock tomb of Sergeant James Cooney, who discovered silver along Mineral Creek in 1870, gained permanent protection. The tomb, which previously was privately owned, lies within the Gila National Forest, completely surrounded by public land. We purchased the property and held it until the U.S. Forest Service secured the funding to acquire it as an addition to Gila National Forest.
In addition to its historic significance, the property protects frontage along Mineral Creek and provides access to a trailhead for the Mineral Creek Trail, which winds through Mineral Creek canyon, a narrow gorge with dramatic, colorful cliffs.
Cooney discovered silver in the area while serving in the U.S. Army. After his enlistment ended in 1876, he promptly returned to Mineral Creek to stake his claim; but his hopes for riches were cut short: Apache Indians attacked the mine, killing Cooney in what has become known as the Alma Massacre. He was buried in a rock tomb and his tomb is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The tomb is all that remains of a small mining town called Cooney, established after his death. The town also came to a difficult end—washed away by a flood in 1911.